In the digital world, networking of applications and systems is essential. One way to achieve seamless integration is through the use of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces).

Table of Contents

  1. What is an API?

  2. Background Check: This is where APIs come from

  3. The 3 API types

  4. This structure is behind an API

  5. Application examples for APIs

  6. Rest APIs from Shopware

  7. FAQ

What is an API?

An API (Application Programming Interface) is an interface through which software programs can communicate with each other and exchange information. APIs define the rules and protocols according to which communication between applications should take place. External developers can also use APIs to access the functionality of applications or services without having to develop them themselves.

APIs are used, for example, to retrieve data from a database, to execute individual functions of an application, or to enable access to hardware components such as cameras or sensors. They are a central component of modern software architectures and enable the development of complex systems consisting of various applications and services. This considerably simplifies and accelerates the exchange of data. In addition, they support the rapid provision of services.

Background Check: This is where APIs come from

The emergence of APIs goes back to the beginnings of computer programming. At that time, programs were developed monolithically, i.e. as a closed unit without the possibility of interaction with other applications. However, with the digital transformation and the increasing complexity and interconnectedness of systems, it became increasingly important for programs to be able to communicate with each other. Thus, the first approaches of APIs emerged, which enabled different applications to interact with each other. Today, APIs are a central component for the development of subareas of a software and enable the development of complex systems without much effort.

The 3 API types

As with all software solutions, there are different variants of APIs that companies can use to facilitate their daily work. They differ in the following criteria:

Internal API

This type of API is intended exclusively for internal use by a company or organization. It allows different departments or applications within the company to communicate with each other and exchange data easily.

Partner/Customer API

It is accessible to selected partners or customers and offers extended collaboration between companies. Special access rights are assigned to ensure protected and secure data exchange.

Public / Open Source API

The third type of API is publicly available and supports access to functionalities and data of an external system when developing applications. Open source APIs allow the free developers to further develop and improve the API.

The advantages for companies:

  • Flexible and future-proof corporate structure, as there is no dependence on proprietary technology

  • High level of data exchange that makes information available more quickly within the company

  • Cost savings, as open source solutions are significantly cheaper than proprietary software

  • Knowledge about customers and processes in the company through fast data acquisition

  • Support from the community of freelance developers who contribute their expertise, allowing programming work to be outsourced

Nowadays there are a large number of APIs and with each new software version more are added. The choice of the right API depends on the purpose and goal. For example, there are APIs for payment processing, for integrating social media platforms or for retrieving weather data.

This structure is behind an API

The structure of an API is usually divided into several layers to ensure a clear structure and efficient data flow. This is how APIs are usually structured:

1.  Transport Layer

The transport layer defines how the data is transferred between the various applications. Here, for example, the HTTP or HTTPS protocols are used for data transmission.

2.  Security Layer

Since APIs often transfer confidential data, it is important to implement a security layer. Here, methods such as authentication and encryption are used to ensure that only authorized users can access the data.

3.  API Layer

The API Layer represents the actual API interface and defines the available resources and functions that can be accessed via the API. Here, for example, URLs and methods (such as GET, POST, PUT or DELETE) are defined via which the applications can access data.

4.  Data Layer

This layer contains the data that is made accessible via the API. Databases, file systems or other storage locations are used here to store and manage the data.

Another important aspect of developing an API is documentation. A well-documented API makes it easier for external developers to understand and use the programming interface. The documentation should describe the available resources and methods and include examples of usage and possible error messages.

In summary, the structure of an API consists of different layers that ensure a clear structure and efficient data flow.

Application examples for APIs

In the meantime, a large number of APIs exist for the most diverse places of use. The following examples provide an initial overview of the various APIs that can be found in everyday life:

  • Connecting payment providers such as PayPal or Stripe via APIs to process payments directly in an app or online store.

  • Use APIs from social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter to display or share content on your own website or in an app.

  • Integration of Google Maps in applications for location determination or navigation

  • Integrate data from partners or customers, for example to import orders from online marketplaces into your own merchandise management system

  • Use of weather or stock market data in financial or insurance applications

  • Integration of translation services in word processing programs

  • Use of AI-based APIs for image or speech recognition

Rest APIs from Shopware

A REST API (Representational State Transfer Application Programming Interface) is a method for transferring data between different applications or systems. It is a web-based API based on the RESTful architectural style, which is built on the HTTP protocol.

A REST API defines a collection of resources identified by unique URLs. The API provides access to these resources by using HTTP methods such as GET, POST, PUT, DELETE, etc. to send and receive data in JSON, XML, or other formats. RESTful APIs are very flexible, scalable and can be easily used by different applications and platforms.

Shopware 6 specializes in the API-first ecommerce approach, as IoT is very closely linked to APIs. Thanks to Customization, it has never been easier to connect third-party systems to the shop system. Shopware offers the following rest APIs:

  1. Admin API

    : Uncomplicated management of the store

  2. Sync API:

    Used to import and export large amounts of data (part of the Admin API).

  3. Sales Channel API

    : Connection to store frontend, POS or other sales channel possible

Frequently asked questions

What does API stand for?

An API (Application Programming Interface) is a method for interaction between different applications, platforms or systems. It defines the functionality that an application provides and allows other applications to use that functionality. A software can be simplified by APIs.

Why use an API?

APIs offer many benefits, including the ability to share data and functionality between different applications, integrate third-party services with your applications, and create new ways to automate and scale your applications.

What are the types of APIs?

On the one hand, there is the internal API, which is mainly suitable for internal use, for example within a company. On the other hand, there is the partner or customer API, which, as the name suggests, enables extended collaboration with customers. The third type of API is the open source or public API and is freely available to the public.